March 21, 1942 - September 30, 2009
Jean, at the beginning of her Alzheimer's with Diandra while we were camping.
My Mother-in-law Jean Ann passed away September 30, she was 67 years old. Jean had Alzheimer's. The last week of her life, she was in the care of Hospice. We were fortunate to have a Hospice facility in the town that we live in and it just so happens to be down the street from where we live. After work, I would go for my run, rush to Hospice and take my homework and sit with Jean so that my father-in-law could go home and take a shower and get something to eat. During this time, I would talk to Jean and tell her what I was doing, my concerns for our family and how much I loved her. I told her how I admired her for going back to school and learning the Hotel management business, so that she could provide for her and her husband with his disability after his accident. She managed hotels for a man who owned one in San Simeon, Solvang, Monterey, and Salinas. That ended when when we found out about her Alzheimer's. This neurological disease took control of her brain fast and she was unable to talk with us. We slowly watched her leave us, to only see glimpses of her still there from time to time. At first when this would happen, she would only cry at the frustration of not being able to speak with us.
In Denair, Jean lived right behind us and the fence between our houses had a gate so that visiting came easy. I can recall the downfall to that was that I felt like I had to keep my house clean at all time and be on top of things. The upside to living behind them was that she always had a pot of coffee going, an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on and a heart ready to help you if in need. She made the meanest pot of chili beans, the best boysenberry jelly and a bowl of creamy oatmeal to die for. Jean was always ready and willing to cook a meal and could do so with just a few ingredients. Amazing! I can remember our family B-B-Q's in either of our backyards. My sister-in-law Sandy, Jean and I would all contribute a dish to the meal and we helped clean up together. During this time, we would share our concerns and laugh about the silly things the kids would do. The last several years, I would often find myself missing her and the way it was before the Alzheimer's, when our family got together. Helping in the kitchen and contributing a home cooked dish is just not done anymore. I feel that was the time when we came together and bonded in our "woman/sister hood"; our roots were able to run deep in our love for one another and grow.
When I had my daughter Diandra, Jean would come and get my son Rob in the morning and let me rest and get acquainted with my new baby girl. I would wake up to biscuits, boysenberry jelly and a pot of hot tea on a tray. She did this for two weeks. Jean loved her family and grand-kids. During the funeral service, there was a slide show that displayed endless photos of her with all of her grandchildren.
This was before seven grand-children were added to our family.
I often felt like Alzheimer's robbed us of time with Jean. My daughter read the poem Life Between the Dash at her funeral service and pointed out that although we had a limited time with Jean, this woman gave us the best years of her life. She illuminated characteristics of Jesus in the way that she loved us all. Diandra spoke beautifully about her granny and made us realize the time we had with Jean was to be cherished.
Diandra looked a lot like her grand-mother. I think you will be able to see the resemblance below.
Jean would hold the kids and recite this poem to them as she would hold their hands and clap. As I recall this memory, I can still hear the kids giggle as they tried to say it with Jean . Diandra started her eulogy with this.
"I love you little,
I love you lots,
My love for you
would fill 10 pots,
2 foot tubs
and 6 dishpans."
LIFE BETWEEN THE “DASH”
I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
from the beginning...to the end.
He noted that first came her date of birth
and spoke the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the “dash” between those years. (1934 -1998)
For that dash represents all the time
that she spent alive on earth...
and now only those who loved her
know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own;
the cars...the house...the cash,
what matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our “dash”.
So think about this long and hard...
are there things you'd like to change?
For you never know how much time is left,
that can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
to consider what's true and real,
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger,
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we've never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect,
and more often wear a smile...
remembering that this special “dash”
might only last a little while.
So, when your eulogy's being read
with your life's actions to rehash...
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent your “dash”?
by Linda Ellis
When Charlie went through chemo, I was scared, lonely, uncertain of what the future held for us and found myself wanting Jean more than anything. Sitting with her in Hospice, I told her this. I also told her that I knew with every fiber and cell in my body, that if she could have been by our side, she would have been and would never have left. I went on to tell her that in both of our hearts (hers and mine), she was there.
Forever in our hearts ~